Culture Wars, then and now, ep 6: ‘The culture of disenchantment’

Adorno and Horkheimer’s critique of the culture industry argued that movies and mass-produced entertainment represented the ‘de-artification’ or commodification of art by capitalism: an inauthentic and formulaic regurgitation of reality that deceived its audiences. The real thing was difficult and hard to understand: modernism separated itself off from mass culture in order to try and save high culture. Heidegger, too, argued that we had become enchanted with technology and needed to find a way back to beauty. Postmodernism took up the debate the other way – looking to debunk the authority of high culture with the irony of kitsch and the elevation of the everyday – moving from abstraction to art as a construct glorifying the role of the artist. Either way, the disenchantment of culture has left us with an ongoing war between low and high, new and old.

Angus Kennedy, author, Being Cultured: in defence of discrimination; co-editor (with James Panton), From Self to Selfie: a critique of contemporary alienation.

‘The crisis in culture: it’s social and political significance’ in Between Past and Future by Hannah Arendt, Penguin Books (1977)

‘The origin of the work of art’ in Basic Writings by Martin Heidegger, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2008

In the context of today’s instrumental approaches to knowledge, The Academy summer school is a modest attempt to demonstrate the value of scholarship, and of the worth of the university as a place of free enquiry dedicated to the pursuit of truth.

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